Sunday, November 05, 2006

Would You Like to Scrape the Barrel?

Talk about tempting fate. A couple of posts ago, I mentioned that the Sunday Star Times "veers from quite good to abysmal" in the quality of its reporting. On that occasion, I had to give some plaudits for the story on female genital mutilation in the Somali community, buried as it was inside the Focus section.

Then, as if to deliberately emphasize its abysmal side, last Sunday's edition proceeded to plumb new depths of banal meanness.

The leading article on the front page was, desperately wanting to be sensationalist, an "exposé" on a Christchurch school teacher who at one stage in her misspent youth had acted as the getaway driver for a couple of bank robberies, and had ended up doing a couple of years in prison.

It was found that the school was aware of the person's past, proper process had been followed by the board, and that she appeared to be a pretty good teacher. The article thus lamely fizzled out.

So, please excuse my language, but what was the f*king point? Here was somebody who pretty much fit the definition of having "made some mistakes", had done the time, and had turned her life around. Given our pretty abysmal rate of imprisonment and reoffending (New Zealand is not as bad as the US, but beats out most other OECD countries), this should be a good news story. Or really, no story at all. How would you feel if you'd been really dumb when younger, managed to straighten out, then woke up one day to find your whole life splashed over the Sunday paper?

Oh, but it's in the public interest, because she could be influencing our kiddies. Yeah, she could be, like, teaching Getaway Driving 101, just after Social Studies. Right.

I used to think that NZ papers mainly dwelt in a boring middle ground. Rarely of much quality or insight, they also haven't traditionally indulged in the calculated viciousness of the British tabloids. I guess articles like Sunday's signal a course further towards the gutter.

The same edition featured in its magazine section a rambling, abjectly bad piece which revisited familiar territory: the well-known "we women are being forced against our will by the fashion industry to be incredibly neurotic about our weight, and men, who of course don't have a care in the world, are in league with them and don't like us anyway, boo hoo" genre.

It would have looked amateurish in a student mag. The writing was laughable (sample: "Does this mean it's jsut a matter of time before all men want women to weight as much as a kitten? Quite possibly.") It got two pages of smallish font. Two whole pages! This is the same publication that so far hasn't even deigned to reply to any of my submissions. [Declaration of interest: I'm a bitter and frustrated wannabe feature / investigative writer]. Grrr.

1 comment:

Susan said...

I was disgusted with the Sunday Times article and could not believe they were hounding someone who had obviously made good. They made it sound like the poor woman had just this minute emerged from prison when in fact, in the Christchurch Press the next day it emerged that she had been actually teaching for 9 years and had a completely stainless career and is well thought of by everyone. With our huge population that has been incarcerated at one time or another what do we think they are going to do afterwards if they are all condemned never to be able to get some kind of meaningful job if they turn their life to the good. Ironically in the same issue of the Press yesterday there was an article about how few of the prison population are getting work experience and how much they need to be encouraged to work at something after their release and stay away from crime.